8
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I've been trying to come up with builds that maximise burst damage recently, but I'm not much of an optimiser, usually preferring themes and/or roleplay.

I'd come up with something along the lines of a Paladin 3/Warlock 5/Bard 12, which could combine Eldritch Smite, Divine Smite and Psychic Blades (assuming College of Whispers) for a total of 9d8+8d6+7 damage (assuming maxed out CHA, Hexblade warlock to use that on the weapon, Dueling Fighting Style from Paladin, a maul as the Pact Weapon, and that Hex had been cast beforehand). This is before I started considering races and other aspects, then that's when I started to feel out of my depth...

I looked up this question for inspiration: What is the most damage that can be done in a single melee attack?

However, I am disappointed with how many of the answers rely on an Assassin rogue's Death Strike and/or a Grave Domain cleric's Path to the Grave feature to double the damage; I mean, don't get me wrong, they're good answers, and I've even upvoted some of them, but they're not what I'm looking for today. Given that I do not want to use those routes of doubling damage or getting reliable critical hits via Assassinate, I thought I'd ask the question again, but with a few extra restrictions.

So, what is the most damage that can be done in a single melee attack, within the following restrictions:

  • No features that flat out double damage, so the aforementioned Assassin rogue's Death Strike and Grave Domain cleric's Path to the Grave features are considered invalid for this build.
  • Nothing that relies on critical hits, so although it might be interesting to know what the damage would be on a natural 20 as an aside, I otherwise don't want the build to optimise for critical hits, such as an Assassin rogue's Assassinate or a Champion fighter's Improved Critical; hence assume the hit is not a critical hit, but assume that it is a hit.
  • No Unearthed Arcana or third party or homebrew; only official 5e material.
  • Multiclassing, feats and Epic Boons are allowed.
  • No help from allies, this should be the damage that can be done by yourself.
  • No polymorph/wild shape, the damage must be by a playable race in its true form.
  • Any class, race, feat, spell or magic item is allowed so long as they are from official 5e material.
  • Assume that the build is for a 20th level character.
  • You can assume that the target creature is whatever is convenient to the build, such as undead for the purposes of Divine Smite, but you may not take advantage of damage vulnerabilities, since that's basically the same as Path to the Grave, but built into the creature; either way, the target must be an official creature.
  • You can assume infinite convenient luck on things like Wild Magic, but nothing that can be used in an infinite loop to create infinite damage, as that defeats the purpose from my point of view.
  • You can have a round to prepare, so if you needed to cast a spell on the previous turn to set yourself up, that's fine, so long as it doesn't have a "flat out double damage" effect like Death Strike, Path to the Grave, etc.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Could we use something like the Scourge Aasimar's Radiant Consumption before combat, or does that have to be during the prep round? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jul 24 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd say that has to be part of the prep round, since it only lasts a minute anyway, so it's going to have to be activated within a minute of combat, which is kinda bypassing the "round of prep" thing. Otherwise all sorts of things can be prepped before the "first round of combat". That said, Sam has found a good way of bypassing that by using a scroll of time stop, so in practice you can cheese a few rounds of prep out of that... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 24 at 12:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SamLacrumb I believe that systems with a certain threshold of complexity then generate an away-from-the-table/solo "mode" of play that's historically a strength of, e.g., D&D. Glad to see you enjoying this part of the solo game; I'm more of a castle- or town-builder myself! \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 24 at 16:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can we specify the target for effects that are creature-type dependent? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jul 24 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Yes, I've noticed at least once answer assume an undead target for the purposes of Divine Smite; I'll make that explicit in the question \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 24 at 18:53
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Average 414.5, Max 678; with a variant rule, average 512, max 858.

Class and Equipment

Scourge Aasimar

5 Whispers Bard: 3d6 psychic blades

2 Paladin: Divine Smite

9 Hexblade Warlock: 9 gets a 5th level pact slot for Eldritch Smite.

3 Fighter: For Action Surge, Battle Master.

1 Wizard: to have time stop on our spell list.

Feat: Great Weapon Master

Gurt's Greataxe
Hand of Vecna with Major Beneficial Property 31-40 (deals extra 1d6).
Banishing Smite spell scroll
Purple Worm Poison
Branding Smite Spell Scroll (9th level)
Searing Smite spell scroll (9th level)
Blinding Smite spell scroll
Thunderous Smite spell scroll
Staggering Smite spell scroll
2 x Ring of three wishes
2 x Time stop spell scroll
Ioun Stone of Mastery +1 proficiency bonus
Potion of Maximum Power

Epic Boons to get 30 Str.

Assume target is a human.

Round 1.0

Bonus Action: Hexblade's curse

Action: Cast Time Stop from scroll, gain 2 - 5 rounds of prep time.

Round 1.1

Action: Use wish from ring. Use wish to cast: Glyph of warding as an action with no material cost. Add Searing Smite 9d6 from scroll (no concentration required to Glyph.)Set to go off upon casting of Banishing Smite

Round 1.2

Action: Use wish from ring. Use wish to cast: Glyph of warding as an action with no material cost. Add Branding Smite 9d6 from scroll (no concentration required to Glyph.)Set to go off upon casting of Banishing Smite

Round 1.3

Action: Use wish from ring. Use wish to cast: Glyph of warding as an action with no material cost. Add Blinding Smite 3d8 (no concentration required to Glyph.)Set to go off upon casting of Banishing Smite

Round 1.4

Action: apply poison

Round 2.0

Action: Time Stop Spell Scroll

Round 2.1

Action: Drink Potion of Maximum Power, apply to booming blade

Round 2.2

Action: Drink Potion of Giant size (triple damage dice for Gurt's Greataxe)

Round 2.3

Action: Use wish from ring. Use wish to cast: Glyph of warding as an action with no material cost. Add Staggering Smite 4d6 (no concentration required to Glyph.)Set to go off upon casting of Banishing Smite

Round 2.4

Action: Use wish from ring. Use wish to cast: Glyph of warding as an action with no material cost. Add Thunderous Smite 2d6 (no concentration required to Glyph.)Set to go off upon casting of Banishing Smite

Bonus action: Cast Banishing Smite 5d10

Action Surge: Booming Blade to make a weapon attack. Let's break down the damage:

Booming Blade (PoMP): 24, avg 24, max 24

Gurt's Greataxe: 15d12 + 21, avg. 119.5, max 201

Psychic Blades: 3d6, avg. 10.5, max 18

Banishing Smite: 5d10, avg. 27.5, max 50

Divine Smite: 5d8, avg. 22.5, max 40

Eldritch Smite: 6d8, avg. 27, max 48

Blinding Smite: 3d8, avg. 13.5, max 24

Branding Smite: 9d6, avg. 31.5, max 54

Searing smite: 9d6, avg. 31.5, max 54

Staggering Smite: 4d6, avg. 14, max 24

Thunderous Smite: 2d6, avg. 7, max 12

Hand of Vecna: 2d8 + 1d6, avg. 12.5, max 22

Battle Master: 1d8, avg. 4.5, max 8

Purple Worm Poison: 12d6, avg. 42, max 72

Hexblade's Curse: 7

Radiant Consumption: 20

Total: 39d6 + 17d8 + 5d10 + 15d12 + 47, avg. 414.5, max 678

Thanks to Sam Lacrumb for the idea to use time stop to load glyphs of warding up with smite spells.

If using the Variant: Mixing Potions rule, and you roll a 91-99 on the potion miscibility table when you drink the potion of giant size, it seems this would add another 15d12 to Gurt's Greataxe, for a total average 512 damage, and a total max of 858 damage.

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3
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401 Max Damage, 248 Avg Damage

Race: Scourge Assimar, Radiant Consumption +20

Feat: Great Weapon master +10

Skill: Poisoners Kit

Ring of 3 Wishes

Ioun Stone of Mastery +1 proficiency bonus

Scroll of time stop

Scroll of Staggering Smite 4d6

Scroll of Blinding Smite 3d8

Flame Tongue Great axe 1d12, +2d6 (+1 improved pact weapon)

Belt of storm giant strength +9

Purple worm poison (12d6)

...

Lv2 Paladin: Divine Smite 5d8

Lv8 Hexblade: Eldritch Smite 5d8, Improved pact weapon +1, Hexblade's Curse +7

Lv 10 Bard: whisper college psychic blade, 5d6 dam, secrets for Banishing smite 5d10, Booming Blade.

Prep round

Action: Activate radiant consumption +20

Bonus action: Hexblade's Curse +7

Round 1

Action: Cast Time Stop from scroll, gain 2 - 5 rounds of prep time.

Round 1.1

Action: Use wish from ring. Use wish to cast: Glyph of warding as an action with no material cost. Add Staggering Smite 4d6 from scroll (no concentration required to Glyph.)Set to go off upon casting of Banishing Smite

Round 1.2

Action: Use wish from ring. Use wish to cast: Glyph of warding as an action with no material cost. Add Blinding Smite 3d8 from scroll (no concentration required to Glyph.)Set to go off upon casting of Banishing Smite

Round 1.3

Action: Use wish from ring. Use wish to cast: Glyph of warding as an action with no material cost. Add Branding Strike 6d6 (6th lv slot) (no concentration required to Glyph.)Set to go off upon casting of Banishing Smite

Round 1.4

Action: apply poison

Round 1.5

Bonus action: Cast Banishing Smite 5d10

Action: Cast Booming blade, great axe 1d12+20, +2d6 fire, +3d8 Thunder

Psychic blade: 5d6

Radiant Consumption: 20

Hexblade's Curse: +7

Eldritch smite: 5d8

Divine Smite: 5d8

Purple Worm Poison: 12d6

Staggering Smite: 4d6

Branding Strike: 6d6

Blinding Smite: 3d8

96-401

248 Avg damage

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you imagine rolling a critical fail in the final attack? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Jul 24 at 11:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Glyph of Warding can't be used to cast a spell with a range of self: sageadvice.eu/2017/12/30/… \$\endgroup\$ – BlueHairedMeerkat Jul 24 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueHairedMeerkat Here's a related Q&A about that: Can a spell with a target of Self be stored in Glyph of Warding?; although one of the answers mentioned that link you provided in your comment, the overall consensus seems to be that it is possible. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 24 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint "If the spell requires concentration, it lasts until the end of its full duration" part of glyph seems to indicate that the smites last for their full duration. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Jul 24 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ How are you using the time stop scroll? Doesn’t it require time stop to be on your class’s spell list? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jul 26 at 8:19
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Cribbing heavily from my answer on the previous question, but if it ain't broke... (Goal is to maximise average damage on a weapon attack, without Time Stop/Wish shenanigans)

Average 254.5, max 345

Let's go for a goblin Tempest Cleric 9/Whispers Bard 7/Fighter 2/Paladin 2, casting Booming Blade with a Holy Avenger greatsword, fighting an undead creature. 'Any magic items' means we can assume any relevant stat is at 30, and we have three feats to play with.

Our prep round, we're going to cast Shatter on ourselves to deal us thunder damage, reacting with a 9th-level Absorb Elements.

Go time, we use an action to apply Purple Worm Poison to our sword. Bonus action, cast Searing Smite at 8th level. Then action surge, attack.

  • Our greatsword does 2d6+13 slashing damage (average 20, max 25)
  • Holy Avenger versus an undead creature adds 2d10 radiant damage (average 11, max 20)
  • Tempest Cleric's Divine Strike deals 1d8 thunder damage (average 4.5, max 8)
  • Booming Blade does an additional 3d8 thunder damage. We're going to use Destructive Wrath to maximise these dice, so 24 damage.
  • Goblin's FURY OF THE SMALL does 20 damage.
  • Absorb Elements triggers for 9d6 thunder damage. We'll use our second Destructive Wrath to maximise this, so 54 damage.
  • Searing Smite deals 8d6 fire damage (average 28, max 48)
  • Purple Worm Poison deals 12d6 poison damage, assuming a failed save (average 42, max 72)
  • Expend a spell slot to use Divine Smite against our undead foe, dealing 6d8 radiant damage (average 27, max 48)
  • Expend a use of Bardic Inspiration on Psychic Blades, dealing 3d6 psychic damage (average 10.5, max 18)
  • Our first feat will be Great Weapon Master, for 10 more damage.
  • Our second feat is Martial Adept, letting us use one of many maneuvers to deal an addition 1d6 damage (average 3.5, max 6)
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    \$\begingroup\$ Use of shatter and absorb ellements was super smart! \$\endgroup\$ – Sam Lacrumb Jul 24 at 16:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you assume that any relevant stat is 30? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 24 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ A sufficient quantity of stat-boosting Manuals lets you boost yourself up to 30. It's a lot of magic items, but it fits. (It's only getting us 1 point of damage per boost, which is not much for a very rare item, but I take what I can get.) \$\endgroup\$ – BlueHairedMeerkat Jul 24 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ And assuming this is a STR based attack, having your abilities at 30 only gives you 1 point of damage over a Belt of Storm Giant Strength (STR = 29) anyway... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 24 at 19:40
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Time stop, wish cheese, and glyph spam sandwich

The damage that can be triggered on a melee attack is limited by the number of wishes the attacker has. This unlikely confluence of edge cases yields an extra 12d8 damage per wish spell. E.g. seven wishes available would add: 378 ave and 672 max damage

Requirements

  • A bunch of wishes and the ability to cast them.
  • Having horrid wilting prepared and ability to cast it from a scroll.
  • Ability to cast time stop from a scroll.
  • A sufficient number of time stop and horrid wilting scrolls.

The Loop

Given sufficient scrolls of time stop, and horrid wilting (12d8 dmg) a 17th level caster could set up as many glyphs of warding storing horrid withering to trigger on attack as they have number of wishes. They should probably use the first wish they have to make themselves immune to horrid wilting though.

The loop is thus:

  1. time stop
  2. wish to instant cast glyph of warding to trigger when a creature is hit
  3. scroll of horrid wilting for the glpyh. (the caster must have this spell prepared)
  4. time stop & repeat

Average damage added per cycle: 54

Maximum damage adder per cycle: 96

Not an infinite loop

A character would have to be "infinitely lucky" to have come into possession of such a wealth of magic scrolls and wishes. They'd also have to be "infinitely lucky" to be able to keep casting wish. But hey, that's one of the things that makes this question fun.

The described cycle terminates when the caster runs out of wishes with which to create glpyhs of warding as a single action. So the cycle could go on for quite a while, but it definitely terminates.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I do mention in one of my restrictions: "...nothing that can be used in an infinite loop to create infinite damage, as that defeats the purpose from my point of view." Isn't this an infinite loop? \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 24 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS FWIW it only reaches arbitrarily many rounds if you let it do so. The use of time stop at all basically opens up this possibility since you could reasonably cast it once, but why not cast it twice? three times? etc... There are plenty of ways to keep casting it a finite number of times. Even constantly using scrolls is limited eventually by how many scrolls you actually have \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jul 24 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS No. This is limited by the number of wishes the caster has. The loop ends when they're out of wishes. If they were "infinitely lucky" to have a near limitless amount of wish spells it would go on for a long time... but the loop still terminates unless they began with an infinite number of wishes. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Jul 24 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem I have with this is that the damage is concurrent with the melee attack, not actually from the melee attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jul 26 at 8:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov by that reasoning, neither is radiant consumption, as it states "you deal extra damage" as opposed to the smites that state " the attack deals an extra [X] damage" \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Jul 26 at 16:18

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